Deland, FL is located about 30 miles north of Orlando, on your way to Daytona Beach along I-4. To many, it’s recognized as the home of Stetson University although golfers may recognize it as the home of one of golf course architect Ron Garl’s best designs.
Victoria Hills opened in 2002 and has been delighting golfers of all abilities ever since. Over the years, the course has been awarded its fair share of accolades including a 4 1/2-star rating from Golf Digest Places to Play as well as several others including the 7th Best Public Access course in Florida (Golfweek 2004/05), and #41 in the Top 50 Public Courses you can play in the US by Golf World Magazine in 2010. It’s a perennial Florida favorite and has been consistently ranked in the top 12 courses in Florida, thanks to Ron Garl’s creativity. Victoria Hills is also enrolled in Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses to ensure that the course helps to protect our local environment, conserve natural resources, and provide wildlife habitats.
The course sits on over 150 acres of gently rolling terrain that is typically not found in Florida. The land features lots of contouring and elevation, something not often seen in these parts of the state. Many golfers once considered Victoria Hills the best course in Central Florida with its rolling hills, lush vegetation, and finely manicured course conditions. Victoria Hills is surrounded by hundreds of oak hammocks and Augusta pines, and the course is delicately carved from a sandy terrain with pristine lakes and flowering green foliage throughout.
The naturally rolling terrain and pine tree-lined fairways are more reminiscent of Pinehurst, North Carolina than Florida. Trees line the fairways of many landing areas although there are ample landing areas off the tees. However, on a few holes, clusters of bunkers on either side seemingly shrink the landing area. Around the greens, you’ll find a variety of swales, collection areas, and deep bunkers guarding many of the elevated putting surfaces. Straight putts are a rarity at Victoria Hills. The majority of greens have a good deal of slope and undulation to them.
Florida golf courses are often defined by water, palm trees, and sand. That isn’t the case at Victoria Hills in Deland, FL, except for the sand. There are over 100 bunkers on Victoria Hills in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many of them are quite penal with thick, well-trimmed bunches of sawgrasses framing many of them. Clusters of bunkers dot the landing areas off of most tees, sometimes on both sides of the fairway. Water is basically non-existent and only comes into play on 5 holes.
This beautiful 18-hole, par-72 golf course offers golfers five sets of tee boxes. The Champion(back) tees play 7149 yards with a course rating of 74.7 and a slope of 134. If you’re good enough to play from these tees you’ll face some formidable carries over the few water hazards that do exist, as well as ravines and sandy waste areas. Move up to the Challenge (Blue) tees (5967 yards/69.3/124) and most of these hazards are either not in play or out on the peripheries. Nonetheless, the course still offers a challenge for all who visit. The views are magnificent, and you’ll be tested with each shot you take!
Like most Ron Garl courses, Victoria Hills has many holes that will stick in your memory for a while. Number 4 is a slight dogleg left that plays 361 yards from the Challenge Tees. By hitting your tee shot past the fairway bunkers on the right, not only will you take the lake on the left out of play, but you’ll also have an unimpeded shot into a well-undulated green.
Number 5 is a long straight par 5 that, if I were naming holes, it would simply be called “Bunkers.” There are no less than nine bunkers in the landing area and from the Challenge Tees, this demanding par 5 plays 520 yards. Even though it’s about as straight as a hole can be, it’s going to take three well-executed shots to reach the green, which is surrounded by bunkers on all four sides. If you can make a par or better, take it and be happy.
The 8th hole is another picturesque hole with a landing area squeezed in by bunkers on either side. From the Challenge Tees, it plays 347 yards and from the tee box, it looks as if there is no landing area past the traps on the left. A good drive that finds the fairway is going to leave a short pitch shot into an elevated green with a false front. Bunkers protect either side and the one on the left is rather deep.
Number 15 is an interesting dogleg left par 5 that plays 477 yards from the Challenge Tees. What makes this hole so interesting is the group of large oak trees on the left side of the fairway that comes into play with your tee shot. Long ball hitters that can guide their tee shot between the water on the left and the oak trees, can shorten the hole and have a go for the green in two. Higher handicappers that play down the right side the entire way take the water out of play. It’s a fun golf hole.
Before your round, warm it up with a bucket of balls on Victoria Hills’ driving range. The practice facilities are pretty comprehensive and include a double-ended grass range with multiple targets, 2 short game areas with sand bunkers, and a large putting green.
After your round stop by for some delicious food and drink at Sparrow’s Grille. They offer a diverse menu, friendly service, and there are several dining venues available for different occasions. Sparrow’s main dining room is elegantly appointed and hosts some of the area’s most beautiful wedding receptions. Sparrow’s is open every morning for lunch at 11 AM and offers dinner Wednesday – Saturday nights. There’s also a Sunday brunch. Sparrow’s isn’t limited to your regular clubhouse food. For lunch try something different like the Soy-Chili Glazed Pork Riblets or the Egg Salad BLT. For dinner, there’s the Blue Cheese-Crusted Filet Mignon. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it’s all delicious!
What you’ll find at Victoria Hills is a course with a lot of character. The rolling terrain the course is built on has a lot to do with that; it is anything but a flat, boring Florida golf course. Although there is ample room for error on many holes, a good short game is necessary if you want to score well. The course has been under new ownership since the beginning of 2020 and numerous changes have been made to maintain and continually improve the overall aesthetics and course conditioning for both members and guests. I spoke with several golfers who play the course regularly and they are excited about the continuous work and effort being done on a daily basis.
If Victoria Hills is a course you like to play over and over, why not consider membership? There are several benefits to becoming a member including unlimited greens fees and tee times up to 14 days in advance. You’ll also receive discounts in the pro shop and restaurant. Fill out the form on their website for more information. www.victoriahillsgolf.com.